Northside SF  

The Final Word
By Bruce Bellingham

It’s been difficult not to see and hear the new Scottish singing sensation, Susan Boyle, on the television, and on YouTube. You’re even less likely to encounter a negative take on this showbiz phenom. Except here. The much-heralded, treacly tune that Susan Boyle of Blackburn sang (and sings and sings) – with the obligatory pop vibrato – is wretched. Must be Andrew Lloyd Webber. There’s no doubt Ms. Boyle has a real instrument. I’m sure she’s a nice lass. Meanwhile, business is good at the Stable of One-Trick Ponies. Ms. Boyle is being used, and I certainly hope she has a good time of it. The triumvirate of judges on Britain’s Got Talent smirked at her plain looks, then launched into near-hysterical praise after she sang a few notes. These three heavy-handed ayatollahs of the British pop landscape shrieked – one even wept – as if they suddenly came across a cure for acne.
“Sadly it all Boyles down to image,” said Miranda Sawyer in a cute commentary piece for the Daily Mirror. “No woman gets to perform publicly unless she looks like Mariah Carey. If you’re a female singer, you are required by showbiz law to appear sexy at all times.”

Tanya Gold, writing in the Guardian, asked: “Is Susan Boyle ugly? Or are we?”

Those are legitimate observations – but they miss the point. The whole freak-show patina of Britain’s Got Talent and its American cousin, Idol create a disturbing and rather ill-making culture. It can apply to reality TV shows, too. It’s an all-out rush for bathos. As Rod McKuen said to me, “The producers of American Idol (and Britain’s Got Talent) have a lot to answer for.” A systematic lowering of any reasonable artistic standards. I think of the singers in the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program – true, young operatic talents. Some of them will never be on TV, perhaps never even perform on a major stage. Network TV has gone open-mike, like Russian trawlers that scoop everything out of the sea. In this case, they throw the good ones back. Carrie Underwood? Entertainer of the Year? Who would have imagined? The fix is in.

The ugly duckling element in Susan Boyle’s story is equally unsavory and manipulative. Very unkind. Simon Cowell, a sly operator in the Roger Ailes-Rupert Murdoch-Bernie Madoff tradition, is a thug. Like the bankers who cheated us all, he’s rewarded richly for rotten behavior. Not only are there few words of protest in response to this arrogant flimflam, there’s an international call for more of the same rubbish. Give us more, give us more. Give us Barabbas.

Just a moment. Let’s think about this. Perhaps this is a trend we can get in on. Let’s find a Tom Jones sound-alike singer (with maybe a few intonation problems, a bit-off-key – the producers like that; it shows their contempt for the audience). He won’t look like Tom Jones. He’ll look more like a Cro-Magnon man – scraggily haired, unshaven, stooped over, draped in burlap – who’s never been kissed. At least not by a human. He’s been living in a shack, undetected for years, with his stamp collection and his gerbils. We’ll get him to audition for American Idol. Are you game? We can concoct a bio for him. Yes, we’ll claim that he was discovered by a farmer in upstate New York who dug him up in a cornfield, not far from the place where the Cardiff Giant was apocryphally unearthed all those years ago. He’ll need a name. How about Barabbas?

Let’s write a song for our new discovery, “I’m So Loathsome, I Could Cry.”
Isn’t it great to know that one great hoax can inspire another? You’d think that after eight years of deception, mendacity and malfeasance, we’d be wary of hoaxes. Apparently not.

Bruce Bellingham must be annoyed by the unseasonable heat. Bellingham also writes for the Marina Times. He’s not always this cranky. But he recently learned his 401(k) was converted into Zimbabwean currency. He may need your advice:


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